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1968. The Vietnam War was raging. President Lyndon Johnson, facing a challenge in his own Democratic party from the maverick anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, announced that he would not seek a second term. In April, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and riots broke out in inner cities throughout America. Bobby Kennedy was killed after winning the California primary in June. In August, Republicans met in Miami, picking the controversial Richard Nixon as their candidate, while in September, Democrats in Chicago backed the ineffectual Vice President Hubert Humphrey. TVs across the country showed anti-war protestors filling the streets of Chicago and the police running amok, beating and arresting demonstrators and delegates alike.
Forty years after 1968, the year still looms as a decisive one in modern American politics, a year of cultural and political revolution and counter-revolution, from which arose today’s bitterly divided country.
In Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Norman Mailer, America’s most protean and provocative writer, brings a novelist’s eye to bear on the events of 1968. Mailer describes the fall of Rockefeller and the liberal Republicans while capturing the tinsel gleam of rising star Ronald Reagan. He confronts the stupefying pageantry of Miami and the mayhem in Chicago. He presents sharply-etched yet strikingly nuanced portraits of the complicated, ominous Richard Nixon and the enigmatic Eugene McCarthy. He shows himself struggling to do his job in the new mediated world of TV and expresses his sorrow, fear, fury, and pity at seeing his country nearing collapse.
Miami and the Siege of Chicago is a great book not only about 1968, but about America.